With everything that is happening in America regarding the Black Lives Matter Movement, the LGBTQAI rights issue in Poland and Russia, people learnt the importance of voicing their opinions, but is what they’re doing real activism?
Many people talk about what is happening at the moment, and usually, they do it through social media. But at the end of the day, the 280 characters or less tweet with a simple Black Lives Matter hashtag makes a difference?
Many people engage in performative activism, some consciously and some not. I decided to write this post in case anyone is confused about this term.
Table of Contents
- What is performative activism?
- Examples of performative activism
- How to stop engaging in performative activism?
- Further reads regarding actual activism
What is performative activism?
Performative activism occurs when a person gets involved in activism but does it only to gain fame and not for genuine interest. Its name is performative activism because it is just that, a performance. This phenomenon exists for a long time now.
It became more widely spread because of George Floyd, the black man who got killed by a police officer for no reason. Stating that what happened to George Floyd was injustice and racist is good, but doing it only so you can be trendy is not. I will give more examples in the next point.
Examples of performative activism
Let’s keep going with the George Floyd example. As I said, when you are posting about George Floyd’s death to fit the trends is wrong, but are there other times when you may engage in performative activism?
Well, we all knew and know about who George Floyd was, but does everybody know who Breonna Taylor and Paris Cameron were? Everybody talked about George Floyd, but after the protests stopped, nobody did. If you consider yourself a Black Lives Matter activist, you should talk and bring awareness to all the people who died because they were black, not just to some.
Same goes with petitions and places to donate. If you make a short video, tweet, article, anything, you should always link petitions, and places to donate. You can’t tell people that something is wrong without teaching or showing them how to stop these things from happening.
Once again, with trigger warnings. Not everybody is as lucky as you are to have never endured a traumatic experience. Maybe while you are talking about rape, sexual assault, mental illnesses, etc. someone in your audience has a panic attack. For some, just the mention of one of these can tear them apart. All of these only because you couldn’t have taken the minimal time to write the trigger warning?
Also, if you are very active on social media, but when it comes to real-life, you turn a blind eye, you are not helping. If while being on the street you witness any discrimination, and you don’t do anything and keep walking, you are not an ally. If you see your friends and family doing something racist, and don’t do anything to stop them, you are not an ally. If you choose not to apply your learning in your everyday life, you are not an ally.
If everybody did that, would there be any change? I’m sorry to bring it up to you, but that is a solid no <3.
I will also start to include a trigger warning at the start of all of my reviews (if needed). Even if the review does not say anything about a traumatic experiences, the book does, and the reader deserves to know.
One last example would be the blackout Tuesday. People posted black images on Instagram (mainly) with the BLM hashtags. These black squares covered important posts with petitions and places to donate.
These are just some examples, there are many others.
How to stop engaging in performative activism?
First off, every time you see a post that comes across as being non-genuine, do not comment, like or share. In this way, you are growing their views and overall engagement, and you will make the article, tweet, video, etc. more popular. Just report and move forward.
Now, you. When posting anything on social media, put trigger warnings if necessary, read more about each subject and apply what you learn in your everyday life. Also, be aware of your sources. Try as much as possible reading published books or watching TEDx videos on Youtube. You can also go to their conventions, as the tickets are not expensive.
Next off, go to protests, volunteer, donate, sign petitions. When the Black Lives Matter movement occurred, I couldn’t go to any protests. Instead, I tried to sign as many petitions as possible, and educate myself on anything there’s to know.
If you are white, just get over yourself and READ! If what you read or watch makes you uncomfortable, that is a sign of growth. Even if you disagree with anything, make sure that you are well informed before. And one last thing, use this discomfort to your advance.
If you don’t believe in something, don’t do it just to be in trend. People realise what you did, and there will be a backlash. Also, by doing that, you are taking a shit on everybody that has put their lives in line to make a change. That is not cool.
Further reads regarding actual activism
I tried to search for a diverse set of reads. I included fiction, non-fiction, essays, bibiographies. Hope at least one of them fits your taste.
- Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good by Adrienne Maree Brown, AK Press, 2019 – Nonfiction
- As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, from Colonization to Standing Rock by Dina Gilio-Whitaker, Beacon Press, 2019 – Nonfction
- Internment by Samira Ahmed, Atom, 2019 – Fiction
- We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee and Girls Around the World by Malala Yousafzai, Little, Brown, 2018 – Nonfiction
- I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, Little, Brown, 2013 – Bibiography, Nonfiction
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Vintage, 2014 – Essay
Also, a couple of articles:
- Valentine, Brittany. “How to Avoid Performative Activism.” AL DÍA News, 16 June 2020. Accessed 1 Sept. 2020.
- Thomas, Lilly. “Performative Activism and How to Avoid It.” The Optimist, 2017. Accessed 1 Sept. 2020.
- Rodriguez, Victoria. “17 Books Every Activist Should Read in 2019.” Mashable, 27 Jan. 2019. Accessed 1 Sept. 2020.
- Kelley, McKenna. “Performative Activism Is Basically Silence. Here’s Why.” Swaay, Swaay, 15 June 2020. Accessed 1 Sept. 2020.